Best Noise Canceling Headphones in 2022
(Pocket Ribbon) – Noise cancellation has become a must-have in any good pair of headphones or earbuds, whether used to isolate listening on a commute or drown out the drone of a jet engine.
Now that many more of us also work from home and may need something to block out the unique array of distractions, there’s every reason why you should invest in a few.
However, with so many choices, finding the best active noise canceling (ANC) headphones for you is not an easy task.
Some pairs have more effective noise cancellation, while others may sound better, cost less, or fit your eye more.
Finding the right balance for your taste can be tricky, which means we’ve sorted out what we think are the best pairs on sale right now. Hopefully this should make the decision a lot easier, although we also recommend checking out the section below our picks for those who need a little help understanding what to look for.
What are the best noise canceling headphones and earbuds?
Our top pick: the best ANC headphones
Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
Excellent noise reduction Great balanced sound Cool design
In return for
Think of noise-canceling headphones and chances are you’re thinking of Bose. Despite the unimaginative name, these over-ear earbuds deliver highly imaginative sound quality that rivals the best competition out there. And the multi-level noise cancellation is class-leading.
There’s also smart assistant integration for Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Siri, a solid app for various customizations (but no EQ sadly), and well-integrated touch-based controls on the right earcup.
We can’t think of another pair we’d rather take on a trip. Bose is the boss when it comes to noise canceling.
ANC headphones and earbuds we also recommend
The Bose Headphones 700 may be Pocket Ribbon’s pick for the best performing ANC headphones, but we also know they won’t be the right pair for everyone. That’s why we also recommend the four other choices below, including earbuds and headphones from Sony, Apple and Bowers & Wilkins.
Excellent canceling Great sound Great looks and battery life
In return for
Sony’s latest 1000X headphones are excellent at suppressing external noise. Compared to the previous generation, design tweaks add quality and sophistication to these headphones, while a new and more powerful chip delivers the grunt to suppress more noise.
The results are sensational, with the 1000XM4 not only sounding great as a set of headphones, but also being one of the most effective at fighting external noise through more selectable levels. An excellent package.
Great design Great sound Really solid ANC
In return for
Bowers & Wilkins is no stranger to the audio game; the UK-based company has been around since 1966, and its older ANC headphones, the PX, have been a mainstay on this list. So when we heard it was updating them with new technology, we could safely say our ears were definitely pricked up. Amazingly, when we actually got them in our ears, our expectations were once again exceeded.
The PX7 headphones look great and sound even better. B and W’s noise cancellation is top of the class, and adding features like aptX Adaptive support makes for smoother listening experiences and better future-proofing. Also really impressive is that the headphones are even more comfortable than ever before, making for a dreamy user experience.
Great sound Excellent ANC Improved battery life
In return for
Quite thick Not cheap at all
Sony has applied its audio expertise to noise-cancelling in-ear earbuds, not just headphones. We’ve seen what the company can do with a pair of over-ears, so we had huge expectations for the fully wireless in-ear model – now in its fourth generation.
These wireless in-ears deliver well-balanced sound that doesn’t rely too heavily on bass or higher levels. We found it just right. The noise cancellation is just as good, effectively blocking out the general humdrum, as well as airplane and train noises.
Apple AirPods Pro
Really great ANC Great sound Great iOS integration
In return for
More pedestrians on Android
In some ways, Apple took the time to implement noise cancellation, although the huge success of its AirPods without the feature might have given it some time to work with. However, the AirPods Pro finally adds the functionality and has solved most people’s two biggest problems with its earbuds in one fell swoop.
First, they now fit a much wider range of ears, with three earbuds to choose from — rather than the “hope they fit” approach of the first two generations of standard AirPods. Second, the excellent ANC Apple uses means you can rest assured that the AirPods Pro will be audible even during the busiest of commutes.
With slightly smaller stems than before, they’re also less obvious than ever in terms of design, and an excellent choice, especially if you’re an iPhone user. That fast and reliable pairing is as convenient as ever.
Other Headphones We Considered
When we were trying to figure out what we think are the best ANC headphones and earbuds available right now, we spent hours testing and researching. We consider a number of factors when recommending these options – and apply the same criteria when considering a new device for inclusion. It’s not all rated on our tests either – we try to factor in consumer reviews, brand quality and value too.
In all our roundups, there are also many products that we test that do not make the final cut. Since they may be suitable for some people, we have listed them below.
How to choose noise canceling headphones or earbuds?
While active noise cancellation (ANC) was once rare, there are now tons of devices that offer it to choose from — here are some questions to help you narrow things down.
Do you want over- or in-ear headphones?
When it comes to ANC, you have a great choice between over-ear headphones and in-ear earbuds, both of which come with the technology and offer different benefits. Earbuds are much smaller and more portable so handy for everyday wear in our experience, while over-ears provide the best isolation but are bulkier, making them more suitable for home use or longer trips.
It also depends on personal preference – some people just don’t find earplugs that comfortable, and others can’t handle the pressure of over-ears, so leaning heavily in either direction will probably inform your thinking.
Do you use iOS or Android?
While most options on the market now work almost equally for both mobile operating systems, there are still times when you’ll find that one device works better on one than the other – especially when it comes to Apple’s own products, which prefer iOS.
This shouldn’t block you from purchasing, but it can make you more likely to choose a product, as tighter integration generally leads to easier user control and linking.
What is your budget?
If you go into this kind of buying process, we recommend that you figure out beforehand what you’re willing to spend, otherwise you might find that you end up spending more than you intended to. After all, ANC is still often the domain of fairly premium options, so many of the choices available are fairly pricey.
More about this story
Each product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your everyday life.
We’ve tested each of the noise canceling devices on this list and have full reviews to back up our list, making sure they all meet the highest standards from an audio standpoint. While the noise cancellation itself is key, it’s also important that the wider sound quality is not compromised and that everything is in balance.
Appearance is also very important, because you have to wear it and feel comfortable with it, and the price tag attached to it is also a big factor, which we pay a lot of attention to.
As with any collection, it’s not possible to provide a list that will work for every type of user, but we draw on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team – as well as a thorough assessment of the areas above – to help our best in this regard.
What we always avoid when putting together these picks are unnecessary spec comparisons and marketing rules; we just want to provide an easy-to-understand summary that gives you an idea of how to use each device. Our statements are concise, but this is purely for the sake of brevity.
Written by Max Freeman Mills. Editing by Conor Allison.